Previously on the Best and Worst of WWF Raw Is War: A taped holiday special featured Goldust as a Christmas tree, Sable as both a reindeer and a sexy Mrs. Claus, and D-X in thongs bending over with mistletoe above their buttholes. A fun time for the whole family!
If you haven’t seen this episode, you can watch it on WWE Network here. Check out all the episodes you may have missed at the Best and Worst of WWF Raw Is War and Best and Worst of WWF Monday Night Raw tag pages. Follow along with the competition here.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWF Raw Is War for December 29, 1997, the final Raw of ’97.
Best: Hahahaha What
Instead of writing jokes I’m just going to tell you what happens in this week’s opening segment, because if you take a step back from it and forget what you know about the characters and context, it’s one of the most bizarre things that’s ever happened on Raw.
So, as you can see from the picture, the show opens with The Artist Formerly Known As Goldust dressed as Baby New Year 1998, doing this precocious baby voice that sounds more like Truman Capote than a baby. He has a match against Stone Cold Steve Austin tonight, so he tempts the most dangerous of the 1997 Fates by offering a bloodthirsty redneck maniac a pair of sparkly black panties if he wins. “You and I can play dress up. I’ll be your Barbie girl, and you can be my big Ken. So why don’t you just get in your little pink Corvette and drive your little ass out here and let’s get it on!”
I think my favorite thing about the Stone Cold Steve Austin character is that he escalates the violence based on the perceived threat. Like, if Goldust is supposed to have a match with him and opens Raw with a promo that’s like, “I’m going to defeat Steve Austin later tonight,” Austin might show up and yell at him, or hit him with a Stone Cold Stunner. If Goldust’s promo is, “I am a very sexy baby and you should put on these panties I brought you,” Austin’s response is to lower a customized port-a-potty from the ceiling using a system of pulleys and levers, have a crew member help him unveil it and use it as an elaborate humiliation weapon.
No! How will Sting use the restroom now?
The most interesting part of this bit is Michael Cole calling the port-a-john an “outhouse,” because he’s the human vessel for Vince McMahon’s disembodied voice, and Vince thinks those things are outhouses. That guy went from “poor North Carolinian” to “Donald Trump’s artsy best friend” and missed a huge net of normal facts in-between. Also of note: Michael Cole is terrible in 2018, but 1997 Michael Cole has that Mike Tenay disease where he can’t let anything breathe, and starts screaming facts and catchphrases and declarative statements every time a wrestler finishes a sentence. “Unnecessary Narrator,” we call it. Austin can say “if you wanna see me give Goldust a Crap Attack gimme a hell yeah” and the audience can respond with “hell yeah” and Cole’s already shouting “STONE COLD ASKED THE FANS IF THEY WANTED TO SEE HIM FACE THE ARTIST FORMERLY KNOWN AS GOLDUST AND WHAT A RESPONSE FROM THESE WWF FANS HERE TONIGHT, KEVIN KELLY.”
The match never actually happens, by the way, as Austin is still pretty injured and needs to stay out of active one-on-one competition as much as possible. Goldust gets pushed over in the “outhouse” and everyone comments on how gross and stinky it is, even though that shit’s a ceiling toilet and nothing spilled on him when it tipped. Sometimes “assumed poop” is the way to go.
Best: “Desecrating The Spirit Of The Casket”
So, two developments with D-Generation X this week:
1. Chyna has breast implants now, and her friends can’t stop trying to get her to corpse about it on television.
2. Triple H is injured and therefore can’t defend his newly won European Championship against Owen Hart as advertised last week. He “popped a knee cap,” which I’m assuming in Triple H speak means he was supposed to be a bad guy, but his knee cap thought he was so dangerous and cool that it couldn’t help cheering.
That brings out a group of druids pushing an Undertaker casket, but wait just a minute, King, it’s actually Shawn Michaels. The entire thing’s covered in spray paint (pictured) and Cole won’t stop yelling about how D-Generation X has “DESECRATED THE SPIRIT OF THE CASKET!” I can’t believe someone would mess with the gravitas of the zombie mortician with sacrificial occult powers as he attempts to use funeral iconography in the pro wrestling fight against his murderous brother, who is also a fire demon.
Anyway, Shawn and Hunter point at Chyna’s boobs for a while until Sgt. Slaughter shows up to drop a G.I. Joe-quality bomb: since Triple H can’t compete, SHAWN MICHAELS will, and he’ll defend the WWF Heavyweight Championship against Owen Hart in a match that definitely won’t end in disqualification and a D-X beatdown.
wait, what kind of match was I thinking of
Shawn and Owen get about eight minutes in the main, and for what it is, it’s about as good as it can be. Shawn Michaels and Owen Hart is about as technically gifted a match as you can put together, and it’s structured like you’d want it to be: with Owen kicking Shawn’s ass around the ring for a while, D-X interfering to give Shawn the unfair advantage, and Hart having to fight back up from underneath. Also of note: Earl Hebner is the referee here, and Owen somehow avoids immediately punching him in the face. I like JR’s very understated observation of Hebner being assigned to the match, which reminds us that WWF management is very aware of what they’re doing to the Hart family.
The only downside here is the finish, which Triple H royally fucks up by trying to swing his crutch at Owen and forgetting that ring ropes are tangible matter that can’t be passed through. He just swing it at the ropes, and Owen has to sit there in the Sharpshooter going “…okay” until H figures out he should go between them.
Watch a crotch botch:
I mean, you don’t start as a cerebral assassin. You have to work your way up to it.
It’s sad they didn’t just do a formal Shawn Michaels vs. Owen Hart pay-per-view program and transitioned Owen into this beef with another injured guy, but it is what it is. Shawn continues to needle the Undertaker, the Undertaker continues trying to deflect the fight with Kane, and after a while Owen’s just like, “sigh, maybe I’m a black militant separatist?”
Best: Unite The Seven
Speaking of the Undertaker, he gets a GREAT segment this week.
You see, Kane wants to fight the Undertaker. Undertaker doesn’t want to fight Kane, so Kane’s taking out his frustration on the rest of the roster, interrupting matches and chokeslamming people to Hell, Good God, Good God Almighty™. This week, seven of Kane’s rando victims have banded together to form a Dungeon of Doom of sorts to get revenge. The group includes the three remaining members of the Disciples of Apocalypse, the Headbangers, Flash Funk and Scott Taylor. Scotty really getting over as the Christian Laettner of that group.
These guys show up and challenge Kane, and Kane steps up to take them on 7-on-1. The announce team rightfully points out that even with Kane’s strength, he’s in there against seven dudes and is going to get shit-kicked. The Undertaker shows up to make the fight 8-on-1, but wait just another minute, color commentator, Undertaker’s here to help KANE. The Brothers of Destruction unite for the very first time, rid the ring of seven lower-level guys in record time, and tease another confrontation. Taker bails, and in one segment with zero (0) lengthy speeches about walking through “hell-far” or whatever, their relationship seems as tense and compelling as it ever has.
Best: The Rock’s Political Agenda Continues
As for the militant separatists, they’ve got a great, simple story going on, too. Ken Shamrock is set to face Rocky Maivia for the Intercontinental Championship at Royal Rumble and Rocky keeps ducking him, so he’s going through the members of the Nation of Domination one-by-one. Last week he murked D’Lo Brown, and this week he taps out Kama Mustafa. Rock shows up after it’s over to announce that next week Shamrock’s facing Faarooq, and Faarooq is like, “da fuck?” Sorry, he’s like, “daa fooq?” It’s similar to the Chris Benoit vs. The Flock story over on Nitro, but without the Flock’s consent.
The best part of this is The Rock continuing to passively mention how in-demand his political opinions are, which is, I guess, to build to him getting interviewed by a Clinton Mistress at WrestleMania. Last week he mentioned fans wanting to know his thoughts on the Gulf Crisis, and this week he mentions the elderly and social security. His opinion: as long as he’s rich, he doesn’t care about those “old goats,” and social security isn’t important. How hilarious is it that a wrestling heel saying he wants to be in charge of everyone but doesn’t care about them seems better than our real, current Presidential situation?
And how the hell did Donald Trump get into the WWE Hall of Fame before The Rock
Best Worst: Worst Mystery Partner Ever
Taka Michinoku is scheduled to face Jerry Lawler and Brian Christopher in a tag team match, so he enlists the help of WWE Hall of Famer George Steele. If you aren’t familiar with his work, Steele was a former science teacher who became the very hard to explain “wild man” character of ‘The Animal,’ a sort of missing link between apes and humans. Not THE Missing Link, mind you, which is a completely different guy. He had a green tongue, looked like he was wearing a shirt made of torso hair, and was obsessed with “eating” the turnbuckle pads. He mostly just tore them apart with his mouth. George Steele at turnbuckle pads like Cookie Monster eats cookies.
But yeah, Taka spends the early portion of the match getting beaten up 2-on-1, because Steele’s too busy eating pads. When he finally figures out what’s going on and tries to help, he starts stabbing Lawler in the throat with what looks like a plastic knife from a fast food cutlery kit and gets them disqualified.
Perhaps the highlight of the entire episode is a spot where Lawler heads up top and teases a moonsault, which has Jim Ross sounding like a concerned mom trying not to freak out when her kid gets too close to the street. If Jerry had hit the Lawlersault during this I would’ve freaked out. I want 68-year old Jerry Lawler in 2018 to drop 20 points and show up punching folks into spins on 205 Live.
Not Really The Best, But Best: Book Me Gently With A Chainsaw
The New Age Outlaws (in New York Rangers jerseys, because they’re in the home of the Islanders) accidentally beat up Mankind so much it turned him into Cactus Jack, and now it’s they asses. A scheduled one-on-one match between Dude Love and the Road Dogg turns into a big hardcore brawl featuring, for what I believe is the first time on WWE TV, Cactus Jack’s famous barbed-wire bat. They hit each other with weapons and chairs, but the match ends in disqualification due to Billy Gunn’s interference. Lawler on commentary is the same amount of confused as me, which I appreciate.
This all builds to the reveal of what’s inside a strange wooden box on the stage.
It’s the Raw debut of Chainsaw Charlie. If you don’t know what that is, don’t worry, the rest of us didn’t either. The WWF had a strange idea to bring in Terry Funk as Cactus Jack’s crazy friend but not actually call him Terry Funk, and dress him as Leatherface acting like Leatherface without calling him Leatherface. The crowd is like, “lol what,” until they figure out what’s going on, and then they start chanting “Terry.” As the GIF illustrates, I love that they closed Terry Funk in a box in the dark with a chainsaw and were like, “cut your way out,” without any way to practice. He’s just aimlessly cutting lines into the box for what feels like minutes.
Charlie and Jack chase the Outlaws through the building and almost murder Michael Cole with a chainsaw, which I’m guessing happened before The Cloverfield Paradox ruined our timeline.
Best: Kevin Kelly Gets Dick-Punched
If you’ve ever wanted to see Kevin Kelly get walloped in his junk, this is the Raw for you.
Kelly tries to interview Sable about the upcoming WWF Magazine “swimsuit issue,” which is funny to me because on the normal wrestling show the women are in bikinis all the time and the men mostly wrestle in nothing but underpants and shoes. What, is this my chance to see Skull and 8-Ball in speedos? As an important note, despite the issue having two separate covers — a Sable variant and a Sunny variant — Sable gets a full interview segment and angle about her appearance, and Sunny gets like 10 seconds later in the show to hold up a picture of herself.
Sable promises to give us a “sneak peek” at what’s inside the issue, but before she can remove her robe to reveal a swimsuit, Marc Mero shows up and makes her feel bad about it. Kevin Kelly tries to step in to stop the verbal abuse with, “come on, hey, come on, come on,” so Mero sack-taps him. This brings out Tom Brandi for the save, so Mero kicks his ass too and chokes him with the magazine, because he’s nothing but a jabber.
It’s actually pretty sad that Mero’s wrestling had already plateaued and was going downhill by this point, because I’m not sure he ever did better character work. Sable got so over thanks in part to Mero doing everything he could and sacrificing himself to make it so, which makes that normal “Mero wasn’t over but Sable was” narrative a little more complex. Wildman out here giving you the hardest sell to hate his guts and prefer his hot wife.
Worst: These Gang Warz Are Never Ending
Quick question: do you remember Los Boricuas singing and rapping their own entrance theme as they walked to the ring? I sure as hell didn’t, but here we are. ¡Manos arriba! Hands up high! ¡Manos arriba! Touch the sky!
Los Boricuas have a trios match poco impresionante against the Disciples of Apocalypse. Your body was involuntarily saying “I don’t want to watch that” before I even got to the end of the sentence. It’s supposed to be a Long Island street fight pitting Chainz, Skull and 8-Ball against Savio Vega, Miguel Perez and Jesus. Check out this WCW-ass finish: Jose, the fourth Boricua, tries to interfere and accidentally gets kicked by one of his own men. He is then pinned, despite not being in the match, and the DOA wins. The referee can’t tell Los Boricuas apart, I guess, which I might understand if Jose wasn’t the only guy out here wearing bright white pants.
Hey Brandon, What Do You Do For A Living?
You know those Jim Cornette bits where he “shoots” on WCW or newspaper columnists or whatever? Those are now completely worked, as Cornette now also hates the WWF, and promises to bring back good, old school, “traditional” pro wrestling to the company. This officially begins the weird NWA invasion angle of 1998, which is terrible, but somehow much better than the WCW invasion a few years later. At least my lifelong enjoyment of wrestling wasn’t riding on the coolness of seeing Barry Windham prefer wristlocks to moonsaults.
Worst: STAY TUNED FOR A MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT ABOUT MIKE TYSON
Throughout the entire episode — I’m talking top to bottom — Jim Ross puts over some very important news involving the World Wrestling Federation and disgraced boxing legend Mike Tyson. Lawler spends most of the episode chirping, “I WANT TO KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON WITH MIKE TYSON! WHAT’S GOING ON WITH MIKE TYSON, JR?” And Ross is still like, “we’ll talk about that a little later, stay tuned!”
The big news? Mike Tyson and WWF have “begun negotiations” re: an appearance on the show.
You’ve gotta love the breaking news of “we’ve taken the first step to maybe eventually have some news.” We know it works out well for them, but out of context it’s super funny and underwhelming. Breaking news: Jim Ross has Mike Tyson’s manager’s business card and he sent an e-mail! Waiting to hear back about that e-mail! Make a graphic! MAKE SEVERAL.
The first Raw of 1998 gives us a Don King appearance — Mike Tyson hasn’t signed to appear at WrestleMania yet, but he MIGHT! — and the Undertaker gets a little revenge for the heinous desecration of his funerary box’s vibe. Also, Steve Austin beats up everyone on the show.
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